Crossing the Calgary World of Wheels pin up contest off my bucket list
After wanting to participate for many years, I finally did it
Lady Luv Lee channelling her inner Mrs. Peacock at the World of Wheels pin up contest. // Trevor Seeger
This past weekend, Calgary’s quintessential car show returned to BMO Centre.
World of Wheels has been a staple for car enthusiasts in the city for close to 60 years. It was cancelled in 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic, and boy was it ever missed.
Attendees were thrilled to have it back this year for its 55th show, as hundreds of classics, hot rods, muscle cars, and more were on display.
Thanks to family members with ties to the automotive industry, I grew up around the car show scene.
While I know virtually nothing about cars, I enjoy the atmosphere of the shows, and the vehicles sure are nice to look at.
Nowadays, car shows are an excuse for me to do one of my favourite things—get dolled up in my best pin up and rockabilly fashions.
Some incredible vehicles were on display at the 55th annual World of Wheels. // Kaela Caron
Dresses and skirts and heels, oh my
I have been a massive fan of retro styles for the past 15 years or so, and it was about that long ago when I first heard about the World of Wheels pin up contest.
While I always wanted to enter, my career and life circumstances took me away from Calgary for about a decade.
Over the years, my vintage-style wardrobe continued to grow and I did a couple of pin up fashion shows and photo shoots.
After returning to the Calgary area in 2019, I heard about Rides for Relief, dubbed as “a car show and fundraiser run BY women, FOR women and families in crisis.”
Keri Looijen, aka Kiki Lou, founded the car show in 2018. A survivor of domestic violence, she decided to start the event to celebrate being one year free from abuse.
Debuting Lady Luv Lee
It was when plans were in the works for the 2020 Rides for Relief event that my path crossed with Looijen’s.
The pandemic was a party pooper that year and the car show had to be cancelled.
Instead of letting COVID steamroll the event entirely, a livestreamed pin up contest and rockabilly concert was held in its place.
Yours truly participated in that pin up contest—my very first and the debut of my alter ego, Lady Luv Lee.
While I had been wearing the clothes for years, that event was where I discovered the true power of the pin up community.
$10,575 was raised for Airdrie P.O.W.E.R. that day. The funds were much-needed as the organization was in the process of opening its day shelter at the time.
Some beautiful babes and dapper dudes getting silly on the World of Wheels stage. // Kaela Caron
More camaraderie than competition
It may have been a “contest,” but it didn’t feel like a competition for a single second. All 15 women who participated were unbelievably supportive of one another.
Many were seasoned vets of pin up contests and they welcomed newbies like me with open arms.
I found a community of women that day who are empowering and fierce champions of other women.
I felt right at home, just like Looijen did when she discovered the pin up community amid her transition out of an abusive relationship.
“When I first started pin up I was not in the best space, and this brought me the girl power that I really needed to have behind my back,” she says.
“What I love the most about being a part of this community is the support that we all have for each other.”
Showcasing Canadian pin ups
Looijen is so passionate about the pin up community that she started a magazine to showcase Canadian babes and dapper dudes.
The first edition of True North Pin Up Magazine was published in December 2019.
“The reason why I started [the magazine] and started hosting these events was because I wanted to get women to come together from coast to coast,” Looijen says, adding there were only American and European pin up magazines at the time.
“We have all made friends from coast to coast through pin up, and it just spreads the girlhood.”
Looijen was one of the judges of the 2020 World of Wheels pin up contest, and True North Pin Up was supposed to take over hosting the annual competition in 2021.
I decided to finally apply to participate that year and cross it off my bucket list. But the pandemic had other plans and the World of Wheels was cancelled.
All smiles at the World of Wheels pin up contest. // Mitch Testani
An outfit two years in the making
Everything resumed this year, and I threw my name in the proverbial hat once again.
The good news is that I already had an idea for a theme that I had been planning for two years.
My outfit was based on Mrs. Peacock from Clue—I wore a teal vintage-inspired dress, I had a peacock feather headpiece to complete my retro hairdo, a feather boa, and feather shoe clips.
I even carried a candlestick with me on stage. I was Mrs. Peacock, at the World of Wheels, with the candlestick. Get it?
I didn’t win, but that’s not why I participate in pin up contests. I do it for the camaraderie and the fun.
And I love making connections with amazing fellow pin ups and helping to grow the community.
‘We’re all beautiful’
Looijen is thrilled with how her first time hosting the World of Wheels pin up contest went.
“The girls every year just astound me with how incredible they are and supportive of each other,” she says.
“It always lands differently when we all cheer for each other because it shows that we all have each other's back and what a tight community we are.”
Joy Boyko, aka Miss Cyclone Joy, opted not to participate in the contest but was there to show her support for the girls who did.
“There’s competition, yes, but there was a genuine kindness… everyone was cheering for everyone,” Boyko says, adding it gave her goosebumps and that she loves the inclusivity of the pin up community.
“Everyone looks good in pin up outfits. It doesn’t matter size, height… we’re all beautiful. And we can feel beautiful and we can make others feel beautiful.”
I couldn’t agree more!